Features: Undertaker (Mark Calaway)
Rating: PG (so far!)
Usual disclaimer - own nothing but my original characters, all the other people own themselves, WWE owns the trademark names, I'm doing this to exercise my creativity and for the sheer pleasure of writing. Ask my therapist!
As always, comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!
The afternoon passed in what was becoming a familiar blur for Harley, as lights and pyros were tweaked into the final set. The crew stopped playing music over the audio set up once it was set for the show, and Harley retrieved her iPod, listening with one ear piece as she worked. She found herself singing along in a low voice as she marked out the hot zones on the entrance stage, which would alert the wrestlers to areas to avoid - such as the space where those propane fireballs would be rising.
Her head bobbed in time with Rob Zombie as she laid out the reflector tape, working in a crouch and moving backwards. She sang along with the chorus, "Crawl on me, sink into me, die for me, living dead girl, blood on her skin, dripping with sin, do it again . . ."
She bumped hard into someone and sprawled on her ass with a muttered curse as she looked up over her shoulder at the man behind her. "Watch where you're going, there, chief - people are working here."
Mark looked down at the woman at his feet, one eyebrow raising as he recognised her from the ring earlier. He was feeling unaccountably nervous about his return tonight - it wasn't bad enough coming back after an injury break, but doing it at a damned Pay Per View was raising the stress levels. Everyone wanted to be at the top of their game at a PPV. And he had a new entrance routine, and a new pyro set up - all things that were making him more than a little short tempered.
"Perhaps if you weren't so intent on that damned thing," he gestured to the iPod hanging around her neck with her crew ID with a barely disguised growl, "you'd be paying more attention to what was going on around you."
Harley rose to her feet, brushing off the seat of her shorts as she looked up at him. Disturbed replaced Rob Zombie in her ear and she gave him an eyebrow raise of her own. "And perhaps if you pulled your head out of your ass occasionally, you'd be a nicer person. For now, I'd be happy if you just moved that ass out of my work space, chief. Unless you're wanting to play Russian roulette with the pyros tonight?"
She retrieved her reflector tape and crouched down again, continuing to outline the danger area, dismissing him from her attention. Her head continued to nod in time with the music as her hand smoothed the tape down in an even line.
Mark just shook his head, turning his own attention back to the Titan-tron, visualising his entrance. He was deep in thought over it. Right up until a fist thumped into his leg. He looked down in astonishment, into a pair of blue-gray eyes holding more than a trace of irritation.
"Are you hard of hearing, chief? I told you to move out of my way!" She thumped his leg again.
That was it. "Do you know who I am?" he thundered. Heads turned, and more than a few crew members made it their business to be elsewhere. Mark could be downright intimidating when he was in a mood, and that certainly sounded moody.
Harley rose to her feet again, her head only coming up to the middle of his chest, but her eyes never left his. There was steel in her gaze. "I'm sure you're about to tell me."
"I'm the Undertaker, girl, and around here I'm a pretty big deal."
"Is that so, chief? Well let me tell you who I am - I'm the woman whose going to be running your new pyros tonight. Which makes me a pretty big deal around here as well. And unless you get the hell out of my way and let me mark out the no-go areas on this goddamned stage, your new pyros are gonna be the last thing you see before they cart you off to the Burns Unit!"
Bob Threadgood had heard the raised voice and had made his way quietly towards the Titan-tron. He was all for keeping things smooth and friendly, and he wondered just who had run afoul of 'Taker this time. He chuckled when he saw Harley rising to her feet. She might be new, but she had worked with some incredibly difficult people over the course of her career. He had no doubt she could handle Mark. Still, it was going to be interesting - kind of like when the immovable object met the irresistible force.
And for a long moment, the two of them were locked eye to eye. Finally, Mark took a few steps away from her, gesturing grandly to the stage. Bob winced - that probably wasn't going to go over well.
Harley stood her ground. "Wise choice, chief," her voice was level, and she crouched down again to continue taping out the area around the pyro rig under the stage, shaking her head.
Bob decided he could probably step in at this point. He strode up the side steps, giving Mark an easy grin. "Good to have you back, Mark. I think you'll like the set up we've got for you for tonight. It's gonna make quite an impact."
Mark tore his eyes away from the woman who was taping out the marks on the stage. "Yeah, I wanted to check that, Bob, make sure I know my marks. Seeing as how it's a Pay-per and all."
Bob called to one of the crew to find the stage director and bring him up to walk through the entrance with Mark, keeping up a steady conversational banter to give Harley time to finish her work. She was making her way down the stairs at the side of the Titan-tron when the stage director arrived, and she shook her head, tossing the tape into her toolbox and going on to her next task. It seemed she'd found one member of the talent she'd be avoiding in future.
She was finishing up some last minute wiring on one of the control panels when someone cleared their throat behind her. She turned to see Mark standing behind her. Oh great - now he was gonna chew her out for not giving him enough respect.
"I was out of line, up there. And I apologize."
He seemed to be waiting for something. If he thought she was gonna give him an apology for her own behaviour, he had another think coming.
"Bob tells me you were the one who suggested this new rig - I look forward to seeing what it does."
"I think you'll like it."
"That's what he said."
Again, there was a pause.
"How far away should I stay from the tape marks?"
"You'll be safe if you don't step over them - I believe in wide safety margins. There'll be plenty of room for you to make your entrance."
"Okay." He was about to walk away, and then he stopped. "Thanks."
He didn't say much unless he was pitching a fit, it seemed. "Any time, chief."
He gave her a grin, one that she recognised - this was one of the big guys who helped her out at the ring earlier. "You can call me Mark."
"Okay, Mark." Nah, 'chief' suited him much better.
"And you are . . .?" He waited for her to supply her name.
"Busy. Try not to step over the tape lines, chief - that propane's hot when it burns." She turned on her heel and headed off down the corridor.
Mark grit his teeth. Bob said she was brilliant with pyros, but he wasn't sure if that was enough to compensate for that attitude.
Backstage during the show was chaotic, or so it seemed to anyone watching. Harley was at Bob's elbow - he wanted her to learn to run the big board. It was a matter of taking cues from the stage director, the music guys, even the ring announcers, and she and Bob both wore headsets to listen in to everyone. Harley tuned out everything that wasn't coming in through her headset, and before long, her hands were moving with calm authority over the board while Bob watched.
She barely registered the talent, except to note when they'd moved up the stairs towards the entrance, and the audience reactions were like nothing more than white noise. She was beginning to learn how the show came together, as Bob knew she would with her experience. He looked forward to the day he could hand the whole thing into her hands and take a vacation in a few months.
Once the show was over, and the house lights came up, Harley took off her headset with a grin to Bob, and took the opportunity to grab a break. She headed for the loading dock. She had learned that it was pretty quiet right after the show - no one was needing the trucks at that point, and until the crowd left the venue, there was little the crew could do about breaking the set.
She leaned against the cinderblock wall and took a deep breath of the cool night air, which was very welcome after the warm stuffy air inside. Slowly, she sank down until she was sitting with her back to the wall, her arms on her knees, letting the tension of the night seep out of her. She took out her iPod and slipped one ear piece in. Years of touring with rock bands and she was a music addict.
Closing her eyes as she nodded her head, listening to Shinedown. She'd met the Florida rockers when they'd toured with Godsmack and Rob Zombie a few years back. That tour had been a blast. She sang along in a soft voice, "Have you ever felt lost inside, so unloved within that you almost die, have you ever stepped out of the light and realized there's a stranger inside".
"Surely it isn't that bad?" came a voice from beside her, and she looked up to see see Jeff Hardy smiling at her.
She chuckled, holding up the iPod. "It isn't - just listening to some Shinedown."
Jeff dropped down to sit beside her. "I don't think I know that one."
She handed him the other earpiece and cued the track up to start again, her head nodding as they listened to it together.
"Hey, that's pretty cool. You toured with them?"
"For a little while. I think they're going to be going out again soon - they have a new album due out in a few months."
"Gonna leave us for them?" he grinned.
Harley shrugged. "Hey, never say never, right? Who knows what might happen?"
Mark had come down to the loading dock after his shower. Leaving the venue this early was a nightmare in terms of fans, so he was used to hanging out for a bit. Tonight, even though everything had gone perfectly, he was content to be alone for a while. There would be time enough later to talk over the evening with everyone. He was a little surprised to hear other voices, and he looked over to see two people sitting close together against the opposite wall. A car turning in the drive outside illuminated the couple briefly - one head with purple hair, and the other with multicoloured streaks. The new pyro technician and Jeff Hardy. Why didn't that surprise him?
He watched as Jeff rose to his feet and extended a hand to Harley, helping her up. They walked back towards the arena together, still talking together, and he was alone in the loading dock. Harley - what the hell kind of name was that for a woman, anyway?
Harley was enjoying her friendship with Jeff Hardy - he was good company, and could always be relied on to make her laugh. She learned more from him about wrestling than she did from watching the shows, and about the people too. Early on, she'd confessed to him about the altercation she'd had with Mark, and he'd laughed, admitting that most people found Mark and Glenn rather intimidating.
Glenn Jacobs, she had discovered, was actually a lovable teddy bear of a man, and she got on quite well with him. Mark, on the other hand - well, that was a different story.
Two weeks after the Pay Per View, while she was working on the entrance pyros at a venue, one of the crew came to tell her that Bob was asking for her. She came down from the ladder she'd been working on and made her way backstage to the office Bob had set up in.
"Bob? You wanted to see me?" she tapped on the open door and stepped into the office.
"Harley, come in - you remember Mark, right?" Bob gestured to the other occupant of the office, whom she hadn't seen until then.
Oh great. "Yeah, I remember him," she said, giving Mark a tight smile. "Hey."
"Mark was just telling me how much he loved the pyros you did for him for the last Pay-PerView."
"Well, thanks," she nodded to them both, wondering why the hell she'd been dragged away from her work for that.
"And, well, he wanted to know if he could have those pyros as a permanent part of his entrance," Bob gave her a smile.
Mark stared at her. "What?"
She turned to him. "You still hard of hearing, chief? I said, no."
Bob grinned to himself - this should prove entertaining.
"Why not?" demanded Mark.
She rolled her eyes. "Because I said so, that's why."
"Who died and made you God?"
She pointed at Bob. "He did, when he put me in charge of all the pyro effects."
"I want to know why I can't use it!"
Harley rested her hands on her hips and blew out an exasperated sigh. "Because the minimum safe headroom for that rig is over one hundred and fifty feet. And most of the venues we book into for the weekly shows max out at one hundred. You only got it for the Pay-Per because the headroom was there, and you got it for Raw because we were in the same venue."
"Well why didn't you say that in the first place?"
"Because you didn't ask me why you couldn't use it every week - you asked me if you could have it. And the answer to that is 'No'."
Mark glared at her and grated his next question. "Well, is there a rig that would do something similar that could be used every week?"
She folded her arms over her chest. "There's a few - they won't quite be the fireballs of the big rig, but they're still pretty spectacular."
He turned to Bob. "Can we investigate those?"
Bob addressed the question to Harley. "Can we?"
"Of course we can. I'll get right on it - we can probably have one to test in a few weeks."
Bob looked at Mark, and then at Harley. Mark got the message, turning to her.
"I'd appreciate that. Thank you."
"Any time, chief. I do enjoy these little chats. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
She turned and left the office, and Bob gave Mark a level look.
"She's in charge of pyrotechnics. And I plan to leave her in charge of the whole shooting match when I take a vacation in a few months. You're going to have to learn to deal with her."
"I won't enjoy it," Mark growled.
"Never said you had to."
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